NSW authorities have conceded the state’s escalating COVID crisis is putting pressure on its hospitals, which are caring for more than 300 virus patients.
NSW set another grim record in its current outbreak on Friday, with another 291 cases.
There was also the death of a woman in her 60s, taking the toll from the current emergency to 22. She is the second COVID patient to die after catching the virus from an infected staff member at Sydney’s Liverpool Hospital.
With cases rising steadily throughout this week, and nearly 100 diagnosed after spending at least part of their infectious period in the community, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said there was likely to be little immediate relief for weary Sydneysiders.
“We are likely to see this trend continue for the next few days so I need everybody to prepare themselves for higher case numbers in the next few days,” she said.
And Health Minister Brad Hazzard acknowledged the toll the ongoing emergency was taking on healthcare workers.
“The health system is under stress as you would expect,” he said.
Nonetheless, he urged anyone with virus symptoms – “cough, cold, temperature, anything that you think might be COVID” – to phone ahead before heading into a hospital, so staff could prepare.
“We have to keep our health staff safe so you can be safe,” Mr Hazzard said.
“But certainly, anybody who thinks the health system in any country where we have a Delta variant is not under stress is kidding themselves. Of course it is under stress, but our health professionals are doing a great job.”
Of the 304 COVID-19 patients in NSW’s hospitals, 50 are in intensive care, 22 of them on ventilators.
Chief health officer Kerry Chant said pressure was building on the state’s hospitals.
“The system is a large, vibrant one,” she said.
“Please do not delay if you require care urgently, the system is there to treat and respond to that, but the system is under stress.”
Of the COVID patients in ICU, 44 have not been vaccinated, four have had their first dose of AstraZeneca, and the others have had a single Pfizer shot.
Also on Friday, health authorities confirmed two new cases in the Newcastle area on the first day of the Hunter and Upper Hunter’s lockdown.
It means there are seven confirmed COVID-19 infections in that region. There were no new cases found on the Central Coast.
Later in the afternoon, NSW Health issued an alert for a busy Lake Macquarie shopping centre, forcing hundreds of people into isolation.
Charlestown Square has been identified as a venue of potential exposure. Everyone who was there between 3-6pm on July 29 is classed as a casual contact.
Individual shops in the centre, which is three hours north of Sydney, have been added to the close contact list. They are: Apple Store, Boost Juice, Cotton On, Jay Jays, Priceline Pharmacy, Glassons, Supre, Factorie, the food court, Ground Level Newsagency, Pearl Nails.
- For the latest on NSW exposure sites, click here
Ms Berejiklian has also flagged rising cases in Sydney’s Canterbury-Bankstown local government area, where policing will be boosted.
“We are seeing too many people frequent certain shopping areas and perhaps not doing the right thing, so police will be more present in the Canterbury-Bankstown local area to ensure compliance and we have to make sure that happens,” she said.
The suburbs of Campsie, Bankstown, Lakemba, Punchbowl, Wiley Park, Yagoona, Greenacre, Earlwood, Bass Hill and Chester Hill were identified as hot spots.